It’s a homecoming with all the makings of a Hollywood movie: man works hard, climbs to the top of his profession, achieves a lifelong dream and comes home a hero. But such is real life for new Washington Redskins tight end, Vernon Davis.
Long before he became a household name in the NFL, Davis was a dominating force at Dunbar High in northwest D.C. where he carried the school to a pair of city championships. His electrifying performances earned him the right to play college football at the school of his choosing, but he elected to stay close to home and enrolled at the University of Maryland. But when it came time to play at the next level, Davis had no choice but to fly the coop.
After nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers he joined the Denver Broncos last season where he won his first Super Bowl title. Now, Davis is returning home to play for the team he idolized growing up.
At 32, the D.C. native is entering his second decade in professional football -- a rarity in the NFL where the average career spans just under three seasons. He’s not naive about the future and accepts that the clock is nearing midnight on his playing days. Perhaps that’s why he made the decision to finish up where it all began.
A funny thing happened in the decade or so since he left -- the city has changed so dramatically that much of what shaped his childhood has either been bulldozed or renovated in the name of progress.
I caught up with Davis recently as he was coming off the practice field to talk about his homecoming and what it means to wear the burgundy and gold.
So what's it like to return to DC after a Super Bowl? Is it the way you envisioned ending your career?
I just go with the flow. My only goal in this game was to be the best that I could be -- achieve some goals. I’m still working toward some goals I want to achieve before I’m done playing. There’s really no timeline as far as how long I want to play. I just take it one day at a time, one year at a time and go from there.
Being that you're a local, did you grow up a Redskins fan?
I was always a lifelong Redskins fan. Growing up in Washington, D.C. you can’t help but be a Washington Redskins fan. My family, they bleed Redskins. It’s a treat to be back in my hometown and play in front of my family and friends. It’s very meaningful.
How are you handling all of the ticket requests?
You know what? You have to control that. Quality control. (laughs) If not people run all over you.
What were your favorite places in D.C. while growing up?
So much has changed. It’s not the same. It’s totally different. Some of the places that I enjoyed as a kid, my perspective on life and just Washington, D.C., it’s extremely different. So, it’s hard to say.
No favorite restaurants?
A lot of those restaurants that I used to go to don’t even exist anymore. It’s different man, it’s different. It’s been years.
So are you going to go out and explore the city?
I’ve been here for five months. I’ve been able to go out and explore a little bit and see what’s new on the scene and just enjoy the city in general.
Anything catch your eye?
The harbor is nice. They’ve come a long way. You go over there and it’s state of the art. It’s really amazing.
Growing up in D.C. you have to be familiar with the go-go sound.
I was a Chuck Brown guy. I appreciate his music for what he’s done for Washington, D.C. and music in general. But yeah, I grew up a go-go guy.
What do you listen to before the game?
Pretty much everything. A little bit of Kings of Leon, Future, Little Wayne, Drake… you name it.
How is your level of optimism and what are your expectations for the season?
Win. That’s my only vision. Winning games. Cultivating relationships and being a leader amongst the team. Whether it’s being a leader by example or being vocal -- whatever it may be. Win games, man. I want to get back to that championship. The only way to do that is to come out here, compete, practice hard and everything else will take care of itself.